Pergamum

Pergamum (pûrˈgəməm) [key], ancient city of NW Asia Minor, in Mysia (modern Turkey), in the fertile valley of the Caicus. It became important c.300 B.C., after the breakup of the Macedonian empire, when a Greek family (the Attalids) established a brilliant center of Hellenistic civilization. The kingdom achieved major importance under Attalus I (d. 197 B.C.), Eumenes II (d. 160 or 159), and Attalus II (d. 138). These kings followed a pro-Roman policy through fear of the imperialism of Philip V of Macedon and of Antiochus III of Syria. The independence of Pergamum ended dramatically when Attalus III (d.133) bequeathed the kingdom to the Roman people. The chief glory of Pergamum was its sculpture, at two periods. The first Pergamene school (c.250–200) celebrated the decisive victory (c.230) of Attalus I over the Galatians; the Dying Gaul is an example of the realism of the art. The later period (200–150) produced a frieze for a great altar of Zeus, glorifying especially the defeat (190) of Antiochus III of Syria at Magnesia. Pergamum was the birthplace of Galen. The cultured Pergamene rulers also built up a library second only to the one at Alexandria. One of the library's specialties was the use of parchment, which takes its name from the city. Eventually the library was given by Antony to Cleopatra. Under Rome, Pergamum was reconstituted as the province of Asia, and Ephesus rapidly eclipsed Pergamum as the chief city of Asia Minor. Pergamum accepted Christianity early; it was one of the Seven Churches of Asia (Rev.1.11; 2.12). Various forms of the name are Pergamus, Pergamon, and Pergamos. The modern town of Bergama, Izmir prov., is on the site of ancient Pergamum.

See R. B. McShane, Foreign Policy of the Attalids of Pergamum (1964).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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